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Description - A Glasshouse of Stars by Shirley Marr

An exquisite, heartbreakingly beautiful gem of a novel for anyone who loved Wonder, Lenny's Book of Everything, A Monster Calls or When You Reach Me.

'Heart-twisting and hopeful, bursting with big feelings and gentle magic. This is a special book from a powerful, compassionate new voice in children's literature, destined to be read and loved for generations and held close in many hearts (including mine).' - Jessica Townsend, New York Times bestselling author of the Nevermoor series

Meixing Lim and her family have arrived at the New House in the New Land, inherited from First Uncle who died tragically and unexpectedly while picking oranges in the backyard. Everything is vast and unknown to Meixing and not in a good way, including the house she has dubbed Big Scary. She is embarrassed by the second-hand shoes given to her by the kind neighbours, has trouble understanding the language at school, and with fitting in and making new friends. Her solace is a glasshouse in the garden that inexplicably holds the sun and the moon and all the secrets of her memory and imagination.

Her fragile universe is rocked when tragedy strikes and Ma Ma refuses to face the world outside. Meixing finds herself trapped within the shrinking walls of Big Scary. Her parents said this would be a better life for them all, but it feels like the worst and most heart-breaking experience of Meixing's entire existence. Surviving will take all the resilience and inner belief of this brave girl to turn their world around.

Buy A Glasshouse of Stars by Shirley Marr from Australia's Online Independent Bookstore, Boomerang Books.

Book Details

ISBN: 9781760899547
Format: Paperback / softback
(197mm x 130mm x 20mm)
Pages: 288
Imprint: Puffin
Publisher: Penguin Random House Australia
Publish Date: 4-May-2021
Country of Publication: Australia

Other Editions - A Glasshouse of Stars by Shirley Marr

Book Reviews - A Glasshouse of Stars by Shirley Marr

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Book Review: A Glasshouse of Stars by Shirley Marr - Reviewed by (12 May 2021)

5 stars “’Are you afraid of the darkness?’ ‘No. Because you can only see the stars when it is dark.’”

A Glasshouse of Stars is the second novel for children by first generation Chinese-Australian author, Shirley Marr. In the New Land, Meixing Lim has arrived at First Uncle’s (huge) house with her Ba Ba and Ma Ma, who is carrying her yet-to-be-born brother or sister. But First Uncle isn’t there: he died of a heart attack while picking his beloved oranges, just before the Lims were due.

Now they need to settle in: Ma Ma must keep calm for the baby; Ba Ba needs to get a job; Meixing will have to go to school; none of them has more than a few words of English. The house is strange, and scary, seems almost to be alive, winks at her from its semi-circular attic window, and is soon dubbed Big Scary by Meixing.

Much is expected of Meixing: “You must do well at school here so that everything, all the sacrifices and hardships your parents have made, will be worth it. Instead of lifting you up and making you feel lucky, it makes you feel leaden, as though the world is on your shoulders.”

In the backyard is a dilapidated-looking glasshouse, and when Meixing is feeling upset about the pressure of the whole situation, she enters at the bidding of its apparent gatekeeper, a black and white cat, and discovers a wonderous interior, belied by the rust and broken glass panes. And the ghost of First Uncle, whose presence, far from being frightening, offers exactly the reassurance she needs.

The Huynh family next door are friendly and helpful, even if the food they bring isn’t quite what the Lim’s are used to, and communication consists of few words. Meixing is mortified when she realises she is wearing hand-me-downs from Kevin Huynh, also in her class, an angry boy also not coping well. At first, school is as unpleasant as she had expected.

When her distress is too great, she seeks solace in the glasshouse with First Uncle. Then when tragedy strikes, a mass of aunts invades Big Scary: a mixed bag of nasty cousins and an encouraging aunt who understands Meixing perfectly.

Eventually, what is most important makes itself clear to Meixing: ”Since you came to this New Land you are no longer a child who is scared of monsters or fox spirits or rotting hopping vampires. You stand against the dark and your heart is calm and big. You know what you are scared of in this world and that is people and their expectations and hatred and unkindness.”

Writing in the second person is not often achieved successfully, and without ambiguity, but Marr manages it with ease. Her characters and their plight cannot help but tug at the heartstrings. Her own experience of immigration and xenophobia clearly inform her plot.

With her quirky and courageous characters, her wonderfully evocative prose and her infusion of magical realism, Shirley Marr conveys, to those Australians who have safely grown up inside their comfort zone, the experience of trying to assimilate into a new country, one with a different language, a different climate, different food, customs and culture, one far away from family and friends and everyone who looks and thinks like you do. And she does it brilliantly. This is a topical and important book for readers of all ages. This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by Better Reading Preview and Penguin Australia.


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